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In this illustrated ecological history, acclaimed scientist and historian Flannery follows the environment of the islands through the age of dinosaurs to the age of mammals and the arrival of humans, to the European colonizers and industrial society. Penetrating, gripping, and provocative, this book combines natural history, anthropology, and ecology on an epic scale. Illu In this illustrated ecological history, acclaimed scientist and historian Flannery follows the environment of the islands through the age of dinosaurs to the age of mammals and the arrival of humans, to the European colonizers and industrial society. Penetrating, gripping, and provocative, this book combines natural history, anthropology, and ecology on an epic scale. Illustrations.


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In this illustrated ecological history, acclaimed scientist and historian Flannery follows the environment of the islands through the age of dinosaurs to the age of mammals and the arrival of humans, to the European colonizers and industrial society. Penetrating, gripping, and provocative, this book combines natural history, anthropology, and ecology on an epic scale. Illu In this illustrated ecological history, acclaimed scientist and historian Flannery follows the environment of the islands through the age of dinosaurs to the age of mammals and the arrival of humans, to the European colonizers and industrial society. Penetrating, gripping, and provocative, this book combines natural history, anthropology, and ecology on an epic scale. Illustrations.

30 review for The Future Eaters: An Ecological History of the Australasian Lands and People

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Everyone I've mentioned this book to over the last week has made the same comment: The Future Eaters is brilliant, but—Tim Flannery cherrypicks the evidence about megafaunal extinction, or he's bit out of date now, or he's too harsh or too easy on Aboriginal people/white settlers/more recent immigrants. It is both remarkable and utterly predictable that The Future Eaters inspires such nitpickery. It is a vast book, and any book encompassing so many thousands of years of history and so many diffe Everyone I've mentioned this book to over the last week has made the same comment: The Future Eaters is brilliant, but—Tim Flannery cherrypicks the evidence about megafaunal extinction, or he's bit out of date now, or he's too harsh or too easy on Aboriginal people/white settlers/more recent immigrants. It is both remarkable and utterly predictable that The Future Eaters inspires such nitpickery. It is a vast book, and any book encompassing so many thousands of years of history and so many different disciplines—biology, climatology, anthropology, history, litearture—is bound to make little errors of fact. It is also a controversial book. Anyone who claims, as Flannery does, that 'multiculturalism' and 'immigration' are actually unrelated, for example, is bound to raise hackles. However predictable the nitpickery, it isn't warranted. Flannery is one of the most circumspect historians I've ever read. His chapter on megafaunal extinction, for instance, is scrupulously evenhanded. He believes that humans wiped out the giant kangaroos and diprotodons that once grazed in Australia's primeval rainforests, and the large carnivorous lizards and marsupials that once preyed on them. But before he explains his own point of view, he carefully considers the opposing hypothesis, that these presumably once graceful creatures were eliminated by climate change. He also quite willingly admits where his own evidence is weak: 'at present we have no clear evidence about the nature of interaction between humans and megafauna, for we have no kill sites and very few sites where there is possible evidence for human and megafauna coexisting.' If he really is so prone to cherrypick his evidence, it is remarkable that he should pick this particular piece. As for his controversial statements, he admits they are often provocations: I have introduced some radical and provocative views principally because I believe that, given our present understanding, they are the right way to begin. Even if they are eventually discarded, the knowledge gained in investigating them would be invaluable as a base from which to make a beginning. Flannery is one of Australia's greatest historians. His training is actually in zoology and paleontology. He spent his PhD years trekking all over Australia and PNG discovering extinct species of kangaroo, and describing the evolution of the genus macropodidae. He is a great historian because he thrusts beyond this (admittedly already broad) disciplinary boundary. The Future Eaters is full of references to great writers, explorers, economists, artists and war heroes as well as scientists. He is a bold thinker. He spends much of the book describing events long in the past—30, 40, 50 or 60 thousand years in the past—and has to fill in many of the gaps with theories. But his theories are always rooted in a sane and personal and detailed view of nature's ways. Nature, Flannery shows, is frighteningly and beautifully plastic, and we humans have an extraordinary power to meddle with it. His main thesis is that the human settlers of the Pacific were the first 'Future Eaters', the first humans to enter a truly vulnerable environment and subdue it to our will. Like the Israelites in Canaan, Future Eaters find themselves in a land of milk and honey. But they glut themselves, and in a few short decades that the bounty of the earth reveals its finitude. Some Future Eaters, like the Australian Aborigines or the Papua New Guineans, then embark on a millenia-long quest for adaptation and balance, and can develop new and beautiful forms of life in a new and revitalised environment. Others, like the Māori, or the Easter Islanders, are never given the chance. It is no wonder this story struck such a chord with Australians when it was published in 1992. This was the very experience of early white settlers. For the first decades, they pitilessly exploited the land. They ringbarked whole forests for a scrap of roof-bark. They felled vast woodlands. They butchered the seals and whales. They neglected to burn the undergrowth. They killed or drove away or seduced the traditional managers of the land. They hardly bothered to cultivate local flora and fauna—indeed, their descendants, me among them, still fail to do so. They tried to recreate English gardens and English households and English fashions in a hot dry land ruled by the El Niño Southern Oscillation. The tragic thing is, this kind of exploitation can seem to work. Australians were taller, stronger, fitter, longer-lived and more fertile than their English and Irish counterparts for basically the whole nineteenth century. As they observed the Future Eaters of North America rampage across the continent and transform themselves into the world's most powerful society, they thought they might have a crack themselves. But then the droughts came, and the duststorms, and the rotting carcasses of sheep. Then the bandicoots and pademelons and rock wallabies started to die. Then the forests thickened and roared into flame. Then the rabbit warrens tore the soil to pieces. Then the mice broke out, then the prickly pears, then the cane toads. Then the rivers belched poisonous algae. Then the Great Barrier Reef started to perish and petrify. Luckily, people like Tim Flannery are not alone in Australia today. There is a growing consciousness of our dependance on the land. More people are becoming more aware of just how little we know. And more people are coming to recognise a salient fact that Flannery demonstrates beyond rebuttal in his book: [Aboriginal] cultures are the result of over 40 000 years of coadaptation with Australian ecosystems. The experience and knowledge encompassed therein is perhaps the single greatest resource that Australians living today possess, for without it we have no precedence; no guide as to how humans can survive long-term in our strange land. This is the hope Flannery holds out to us: it has been done before. Humans have made made peace with their environment. We can never quite go back, it is true. An industrial society of millions cannot live in the rainforest, and even if we could, the soft-footed herbivores that once maintained the understory are long gone. Likewise an industrial society of millions cannot forage on the grasslands, and even if we could, probably too much of the soil has been ruined to support the stupendously biodiverse garden-like environments the Europeans encountered in 1788. We must make a new treaty with the land. To do that, we have to finish making our treaty with the first people of it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David

    This is a wonderful book about the natural history of Australia and its neighbors; New Zealand, New Caledonia, and New Guinea. The book is never boring, and is quite accessible to the layman. Tim Flannery describes why the ecology of Australia is so fragile; much of the land is not fertile, compounded by a dry climate. When the ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) ensues at irregular intervals, the climate worsens yet further. In between these episodes, wet periods cause the flora to flourish, en This is a wonderful book about the natural history of Australia and its neighbors; New Zealand, New Caledonia, and New Guinea. The book is never boring, and is quite accessible to the layman. Tim Flannery describes why the ecology of Australia is so fragile; much of the land is not fertile, compounded by a dry climate. When the ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) ensues at irregular intervals, the climate worsens yet further. In between these episodes, wet periods cause the flora to flourish, encouraging newcomers to believe that "good times" are the norm. Tim Flannery does a marvelous job explaining the cultures of the indigenous peoples of the region, in terms of the natural history and climate. "Good times" encourage the peoples to be friendly toward newcomers, while "bad times" encourage them to be territorial, belligerent and warlike. While the aborigenes have not helped the ecology, European newcomers have been much worse. Historically, European immigrants tended to believe that Australia is "just like back home", but simply somewhat drier. This attitude, along with their feelings of superiority, have caused disastrous effects on the ecology. I highly recommend this book to all those interested in natural history and ecology.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sebastian

    Phenomenal book. Hands down the best Anthropology book I've ever read. It has opened by understanding much further than before on a wide array of concepts such as: sustainability, evolution, war, famine, species diversity etc. It covers 50,000 years + of evolution; primarily in the south-pacific, but he does go into European evolution and Asian evolution of humans because of their influence on the region. From megafauna to mountain formations, retracting ice ages, case-by-case analysis of patterns Phenomenal book. Hands down the best Anthropology book I've ever read. It has opened by understanding much further than before on a wide array of concepts such as: sustainability, evolution, war, famine, species diversity etc. It covers 50,000 years + of evolution; primarily in the south-pacific, but he does go into European evolution and Asian evolution of humans because of their influence on the region. From megafauna to mountain formations, retracting ice ages, case-by-case analysis of patterns of extinction to disruption, the link between poor ecosystems and diversity, how every new 'progress' we exercise is actually reducing future wealth [hence the title:], animal husbandry, humans in temperate vs. tropical areas, completely re-think your ideas about war and what it means, completely re-think your idea about what is right to conserve and what we should eat, completely shatter the ideal of the tribe as being the correct human-group size in all situations, strong reinforcement that environment will forge evolution, multiple human flows and their diverse effects, the tame vs. wild animal, boom-bust cycles that follow clear patterns, the fire-farming method, calculating carrying capacities, how aboriginal people were just as advanced as Europeans, the 12,000 agricultural myth is not true [its more like 50 to 60,000 years old in the pacific:], understanding 100,000-500,000+ year cycles... and more! Packed with references. This is science without censorship written in a manner that anyone can follow.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Richard Reese

    After spending more than 20 years reading hundreds of books describing various aspects of the Earth Crisis, The Future Eaters by Tim Flannery stands out. It provides a sliver of hope for the future that is not built on magical thinking. Flannery is a lad who is madly in love with the Australian region, and he dreams that it will eventually heal, far down the road someday. Here’s the story. Hominids evolved in Africa, and later migrated into Eurasia, where they lived in some regions for a million After spending more than 20 years reading hundreds of books describing various aspects of the Earth Crisis, The Future Eaters by Tim Flannery stands out. It provides a sliver of hope for the future that is not built on magical thinking. Flannery is a lad who is madly in love with the Australian region, and he dreams that it will eventually heal, far down the road someday. Here’s the story. Hominids evolved in Africa, and later migrated into Eurasia, where they lived in some regions for a million years before Homo sapiens drifted in. In ecosystems where the fauna coevolved with hominids, the critters clearly understood that two-legs were predators, and they behaved accordingly. But when Homo sapiens first appeared in Australia, none of the critters had ever seen a two-leg before, so they had no fear. The fearless elephant seals on King Island weighed up to four tons. They would calmly sun themselves while humans killed the animal sitting beside them. On Kangaroo Island, men could walk up to fearless kangaroos and dispatch them with clubs. Millions of birds were killed with sticks. Flannery referred to these hunters as future eaters. Future eaters were Homo sapiens that migrated into lands where the ecosystem had not coevolved with hominids. Australians were the first future eaters, but far from the last. The first phase of future eating was to hunt like there’s no tomorrow. For example, New Zealand was loaded with birds. Moas were ostrich-like birds that could grow to 10 feet (3 m) tall, and weigh 550 pounds (250 kg). Future eaters arrived between 800 and 1,000 years ago, and by 400 years ago the moas were extinct. Today we have found many collections of moa bones, some containing the remains of up to 90,000 birds. Evidence suggests that a third of the meat was tossed away to rot. Obviously, the birds were super-abundant and super-easy to kill. Meanwhile, well-fed future eaters gave birth to growing numbers of baby future eaters. More killers + less prey = trouble. The party got ugly. Friendly neighbors became mortal enemies. Moas disappeared from the menu, and were replaced by Moe and Mona from a nearby village. Cannibalism beats starvation. Overhunting and overbreeding, followed by bloody social breakdown, was a normal pattern in the world of the future eaters. Following the crash, the survivors had two options: learn from their mistakes, or fool around with new mistakes. The New Zealanders didn’t have time to get their act together before they were discovered by palefaces. It was a different story in New Caledonia, where the future eaters arrived 3,500 years ago. They partied hard, crashed, did the warfare thing, adapted to their damaged ecosystem, and were having a nice time when Captain Cook washed up on shore. Future eating contributed to extinctions. In Australia, large animals were going extinct by 35,000 years ago. Most megafauna in the Americas vanished 11,000 years ago. In New Caledonia, it was 3,500 years ago. In recently settled New Zealand, big animals went extinct 500 to 800 years ago. In Africa, Asia, and Europe, some megafauna managed to survive, because of coevolution. The unlucky ones were domesticated, which led to radical changes in our way of life. Enslaved horses facilitated the bloody spread of the Indo-European culture from Ireland to India. Along with oxen, horses enabled the expansion of soil mining. Vast forests were eliminated to make room for growing herds of hooved locusts. Australia is an unusual continent. It has been geologically static for 60 million years. Most of the soil is extremely old, and very low in nutrients. Consequently, the fauna that won the evolution sweepstakes were energy efficient, majoring in marsupials and reptiles. On other continents, soils often contain twice as much phosphate and nitrates. Lands having rich soils produced energy-guzzling ecosystems, including large numbers of megafauna. The most energy-intensive species of all are warm-blooded carnivores like us. Europe has 660 million people, and Australia has 17 million. In addition to feeble soils, Australia has spooky weather, driven by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The climate unpredictably swings between droughts and floods. Droughts can last for many years, and then be washed away with a deluge. These freaky swings encourage cautious lifestyles, weed out energy-guzzling species, and make agriculture especially unreliable. Flannery wonders if it’s moral to “live as a vegetarian in Australia, destroying seven kilograms of irreplaceable soil, upon which everything depends, for each kilogram of bread we consume?” This question is relevant in all lands. There is no free lunch in farm country. Anyway, before humans arrived in the Australian region, the ecosystems were self-sustaining. Then came the future eaters. Extinctions included species that had performed essential ecosystem functions, like controlling woody brush. When brush got out of control, it reduced grazing land for herbivores, and encouraged devastating wildfires. To reduce this new imbalance, Aborigines periodically lit fires to keep the fuel from accumulating. Unfortunately, during burns, soil nutrients went up in smoke, especially nitrogen. Exposed soils were vulnerable to wind erosion. The land got drier. Centuries of burning produced a downward spiral that was largely irreversible. There was no undo command. The hunters must have had turbulent times as the initial era of plenty and prosperity dissolved into scarcity. Then, “for 60,000 years Aborigines managed the crippled ecosystems, preventing them from degenerating further.” For the last 12,000 years, surviving evidence suggests that they lived in a stable and sustainable manner. They succeeded at this by learning the most important trick of all — adapting to their ecosystem. They were forced to return their future eater badges and uniforms, and they were glad to do so. Meanwhile, back in Eurasia, the nutrient rich soils were sprouting the biggest and craziest mob of future eaters to ever walk the Earth. For the last 12,000 years, they have exploded in number, exterminated the megafauna, laid waste to forests and fisheries, and spilled oceans of blood. Then, they discovered Australia, and imported the future eater mindset, with predictable results. Today, the human population of the planet is almost entirely future eaters. Our binge of plenty and prosperity is wheezing, bleeding, and staggering. Climate change and the end of cheap and abundant energy will derail civilization as we know it. We are proceeding into an era of scarcity and conflict. When the smoke eventually clears, we would be wise to learn the most important trick of all. On the plus side, we are the first future eaters to comprehend the catastrophic effects of our future eating lifestyle. It’s never too late to learn, think, and grow. There’s never been a better time to question everything. In a thousand years, if we make it, we may be asked to return our badges and uniforms. There is hope! Hooray!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sammy

    A thoroughly fascinating work by a great Australian writer and scientist. Flannery examines the relationship of new arrivals to their land, with Australia as the useful test case. As a land that was populated in the last 100,000 years, but at a much earlier date than, for instance, the Americas, it presents an ideal site for a study of a) why its flora and fauna evolved the way they did, b) what impact the first Australians had on the landscape over their tens of thousands of years of ownership; A thoroughly fascinating work by a great Australian writer and scientist. Flannery examines the relationship of new arrivals to their land, with Australia as the useful test case. As a land that was populated in the last 100,000 years, but at a much earlier date than, for instance, the Americas, it presents an ideal site for a study of a) why its flora and fauna evolved the way they did, b) what impact the first Australians had on the landscape over their tens of thousands of years of ownership; c) what impact this "co-evolution" had on them, and d) what massive changes were wrought by colonists and conquerors, aka my ancestors, to this existing ecosystem. In contrast, Flannery uses our near neighbour New Zealand, which remained devoid of people until around 1,000 years ago, and so serves as the perfect antithesis. Flannery deals in specific cases, but each chapter is manageable from a layperson's point of view. His tone is one of awe at nature, red in tooth and claw. His pedigree is exemplary, as Flannery is able to use examples of where he himself discovered fossils or evidence, so that's always a plus. The downside of the book, inevitably, is that it's 25 years old. This doesn't invalidate the text, but it has an impact on the usefulness of the first two-thirds of the book. The first section, dealing in pre-human evolution in Australia and surrounds, is chock-full of discoveries just being made, or questioned, in the early 1990s. So much work has been done in this space, that Flannery's work serves more as a guide to other studies rather than a current scientific document. The second section focuses on Aboriginal Australians, and here Flannery was ahead of the curve. Analysis of the relationship of our first peoples to their land has spread and deepened considerably since then. But none of this is his fault. A solid read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Guy

    A remarkable and fascinating book. I thought that Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" had created the gold standard for ecological history, but Flannery gives him a run for his money and, in some respects, surpasses him. While Diamond's scope and goals are more grandiose (to explain from first principles why Europeans ended up ruling the world, if only for a while), Flannery's analysis of the ecological history of Australasia is more detailed and left me with a much better understanding of A remarkable and fascinating book. I thought that Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" had created the gold standard for ecological history, but Flannery gives him a run for his money and, in some respects, surpasses him. While Diamond's scope and goals are more grandiose (to explain from first principles why Europeans ended up ruling the world, if only for a while), Flannery's analysis of the ecological history of Australasia is more detailed and left me with a much better understanding of and appreciation for the complex networks of cause and effect that define and influence ecological systems as they change over time. I also felt like, after reading "The Future Eaters", I understood much better the intellectual challenge of piecing together thousands of disparate clues from many fields of study to derive a big picture explanation of why things are the way they are. Flannery knows a vast number of facts, but he thinks in terms of systems, and this allows him to arrive at convincing explanations of what must have happened in the past based on not only what exists now and in the fossil record, but also on the gaps, on what is missing. The conclusions he reaches have relevance not only for those who are interested in Australasia's past and the present, but also for those who would understand what sorts of futures are possible for the region. In particular, his observations about the limited carrying capacity of the Australian ecosystem should be required reading for all Australians and their political representatives who advocate continued immigration. It may be a huge and sparsely settled country, but from an ecological perspective it is probably already overpopulated.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Passer

    An incredible insight into Australian natural and human history. Things I have read here have change how I view the world! Very accessible for a layperson: took me forever to read - as science a bit of an unfamiliar stretch for me - but pretty engaging when I didn't find myself distracted.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Leanne

    I really enjoyed this book and it's given me a new appreciation for Australian flora and fauna (particularly flora). While it was very interesting and a lot of it is still relevant, make sure you check up on the latest developments before storing too much of it in the knowledge bank. It is quite dated in many ways and some of his theories have been disproven. I still found it to be a very 'goodread' and would recommend it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tom Hodgson

    My biggest regret regarding this book is that it is just one book, rather than part of a massive genre of writings on Australian geographic & biological history and their interrelations and impacts on humanity. Need more. My biggest regret regarding this book is that it is just one book, rather than part of a massive genre of writings on Australian geographic & biological history and their interrelations and impacts on humanity. Need more.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nadia Zeemeeuw

    It was such a thought-provoking, educational and fascinating read I simply can’t praise this book enough.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Eduardo Santiago

    The title refers to human colonists—not just the Europeans arriving in Australia but all of them, every group of humans arriving in new lands since we first left Africa. Finding seemingly-unlimited resources; discovering that, oops, they're not unlimited; collapsing; sometimes surviving in degraded state—sometimes not. Book was slightly too long but covered new (to me) material in geology, evolutionary biology especially the rise of birds to fill niches that mammals fill in other environments, an The title refers to human colonists—not just the Europeans arriving in Australia but all of them, every group of humans arriving in new lands since we first left Africa. Finding seemingly-unlimited resources; discovering that, oops, they're not unlimited; collapsing; sometimes surviving in degraded state—sometimes not. Book was slightly too long but covered new (to me) material in geology, evolutionary biology especially the rise of birds to fill niches that mammals fill in other environments, and pre-European cultures of Australasia. Most distinguishing feature was its complete Australiocentricity, the references that took a moment to understand or even flew entirely over my head, the almost complete non-treatment of the Americas as if they were irrelevant. That was refreshing. Money quote, from near the end: The European history of the colonisation of Australia has followed the same pattern as has the history of all of the colonists of the 'new' lands. All have arrived at what they are convinced is a virgin land. All have found resources that have never before been tapped, and all have experienced a short period of tremendous boom, when people were bigger and better than before, and when resources seemed so limitless that there was no need to fight for them. Because there was enough for everyone, egalitarian, carefree societies with the leisure to achieve great things, have prospered. There was a period of optimism, when people imagined great futures for their nations. Inevitably, however, each group has found that the resource base is not limitless. Each has experienced a period when the competition for shrinking resources becomes sharper. The struggle between people increases, whether it be a class struggle or a struggle between tribes. If people survive long enough, they eventually come into equilibrium with their newly impoverished land—and their lifestyles are ultimately dictated by the number of renewable resources that their ancestors have left them. The future eaters of today have no excuses. They cannot claim ignorance, cannot say “who could have known”. They are devouring our planet out of pure greed. I am grateful that my children will never live to see the world we’re leaving them. And I hope to live long enough to see some of those bastards dropped from great heights onto rotating helicopter blades.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mike Hedley

    I read the first edition some years ago, back in the 90s in fact. Reading it again now, from the viewpoint of assessing its strengths and weaknesses for a university essay. While Flannery's work is easy to read, it's not without problems, the largest of which is his contention that Aboriginals wiped out the megafauna soon after they arrived on the continent, the absent megafauna meant that the amount of vegetation increased, and that vegetation burned. Flannery based his contention on studies fr I read the first edition some years ago, back in the 90s in fact. Reading it again now, from the viewpoint of assessing its strengths and weaknesses for a university essay. While Flannery's work is easy to read, it's not without problems, the largest of which is his contention that Aboriginals wiped out the megafauna soon after they arrived on the continent, the absent megafauna meant that the amount of vegetation increased, and that vegetation burned. Flannery based his contention on studies from the 198os, in particular of lake sediments which had fewer dating methods available than is presently the case. Even with more up-to-date dating techniques, there is disagreement about what carbon in lake sediments indicate. Flannery's work should have been updated to account for the 20+ years of research carried on since Future Eaters was first published. Current thinking on megafauna posits multiple factors for their demise- a gradually drying climate, direct and indirect (the taking of eggs, for instance, in the case of Genyornis) predation, the fire regime of the Aboriginals (which may have benefited some species), plus natural fires which no doubt inspired Aboriginal people. Allied with climate change (some of which were quite abrupt) was a change in vegetation, in terms of species mix. The fact that megafaunal species may have survived alongside humans for thousands of years, and that almost no unequivocal hunting sites (that is, megafaunal remains with butchering marks) have been found leads to a weakening of Flannery's theory. Flannery's enthusiasm for his subject is evident, and apart from the odd clumsy sentence, "Future Eaters" is a pretty good read. It's a pity Flannery didn't stick with mammology and palaeontology, for his later prognostications on climate led to some crazy policy decisions in Australia when politicians believed him.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Kuzmier

    Did humans or climate change cause the extinction of the megafauna and flora of Australasia? Tim Flannery attempts to answer this question in his 1994 book 'The Future Eaters'. I enjoyed Tim Flannery's 'Future Eaters'. Flannery's narrative tone was engaging, which helped prevent the encyclopedic compendium of facts from sounding like a novel-length shopping list. Not being a paleontologist, I can't know for sure, but much of what Flannery posited seemed speculative, which may be a necessary conse Did humans or climate change cause the extinction of the megafauna and flora of Australasia? Tim Flannery attempts to answer this question in his 1994 book 'The Future Eaters'. I enjoyed Tim Flannery's 'Future Eaters'. Flannery's narrative tone was engaging, which helped prevent the encyclopedic compendium of facts from sounding like a novel-length shopping list. Not being a paleontologist, I can't know for sure, but much of what Flannery posited seemed speculative, which may be a necessary consequence of deciphering what occurred millennia in the past, but did disrupt the flow a bit for me. Much of the book is outdated, and some concepts such as whether the original inhabitants of Australasia hunted fauna necessary for sustainability to extinction (hence the title, Future Eaters) are now being challenged. For now, the everlasting question, did humans or climate change cause the extinction of the megafauna and flora is still being asked. As many believe a human caused sixth mass extinction a well as catastrophic climate change is underway in Australasia and the rest of the world, it's still a relevant question. 'The Future Eaters' is an interesting speculation as to what happens when a human populace forgets its limits, and what might happen to us if we don't remember.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    The future eater's is an interesting book which documents the destruction of ecosystems in the distant and recent past by colonizers. A process which also impoverished the future eaters. Such accounts are of continuing importance today, for although rising humanity has already ate much of it's future there remains vast resources and diversity which if mismanaged shall shall be consumed. While the subject of the book is very interesting the execution is less so, especially in the first two parts. W The future eater's is an interesting book which documents the destruction of ecosystems in the distant and recent past by colonizers. A process which also impoverished the future eaters. Such accounts are of continuing importance today, for although rising humanity has already ate much of it's future there remains vast resources and diversity which if mismanaged shall shall be consumed. While the subject of the book is very interesting the execution is less so, especially in the first two parts. While the varied case studies from new zealand to Easter Island are interesting in of themselves, they quickly grow redundant for conveying the core message of the book. If readers find themselves growing bored in these parts then it would be a reasonable idea to skip a few chapters in part 1 or 2. In a similar vein this book is a little out of date and contains a number of inaccuracies. While the original message holds true if anyone is especially interested in the contents of a chapter or wants to have th, such as that on the effects of the maori on New Zealand, they'd do well to read up on it elsewhere.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Loki

    Eminently readable, "The Future Eaters" goes into considerable detail about how geology, evolution, glaciation, and, of course, human intervention, have shaped the ecologies of Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea and New Caledonia. Flannery teases out the similarities and the differences between these four close neighbours, and shows how the ecology of each has functioned in the past and functions today. He does not romanticise any of the human groups he discusses, but neither is he overly critic Eminently readable, "The Future Eaters" goes into considerable detail about how geology, evolution, glaciation, and, of course, human intervention, have shaped the ecologies of Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea and New Caledonia. Flannery teases out the similarities and the differences between these four close neighbours, and shows how the ecology of each has functioned in the past and functions today. He does not romanticise any of the human groups he discusses, but neither is he overly critical, viewing them for the most part as having made the best decisions they could based on what they knew and believed to be true. While a tad outdated now in some minor respects (science is a moving target, always), this is overall a fine and well-researched work, and an excellent place to start a dive into the deep history of Oceania.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jules

    There is a lot going on in this book and Flannery sweeps across huge swathes of time and many disciplines, and a lot of water (and eroded soil) has passed under the bridge since 1994, so it seems pointless to get into arguing the thesis in a Goodreads review. It is still an example of gorgeously written nonfiction and ecological study, clear and uncompromising in its principles. If you are not familiar with the animals and plants of Australia and New Zealand you'll do a lot of google imaging but There is a lot going on in this book and Flannery sweeps across huge swathes of time and many disciplines, and a lot of water (and eroded soil) has passed under the bridge since 1994, so it seems pointless to get into arguing the thesis in a Goodreads review. It is still an example of gorgeously written nonfiction and ecological study, clear and uncompromising in its principles. If you are not familiar with the animals and plants of Australia and New Zealand you'll do a lot of google imaging but it's worth it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mr_wormwood

    The use of the term 'Future Eaters' as a metaphor fails in terms of the Aboriginal relationship to the Australian environment, more recent research suggests quite the opposite. Nevertheless this is certainly a must-read for anyone interested in Australasian ecology

  18. 5 out of 5

    Abe Musselman

    Another amazing book by Tim Flannery. His sweeping accounts of how humans have reshaped the natural world are sometimes distressing to read, but they also give me hope and a sense of perspective. The future is long, and it's in our hands.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    I cannot recommend this book highly enough for those interested in Australian history / ecology / anthropology. Phenomenal.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Toon Pepermans

    an excellent book (except for the wild speculations at the end of chapter 14)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Eleanor

    Really interesting take on the history of people in Oceania and their impact on the environment, with amazing takeaways for future development.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Linda Rose

    So much I didn't know about the history of the ancient sailors. They had a good life, but at the same time, so much can go wrong when you're stuck on this tiny island with a number of people.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Mind blown. Addressing a broad overview of Australia's biological past from pre-history to today, but with a personable and personal approach. Very readable. Should be required reading for all Australians - helps contextualise the damaging effects of the european cultural framework we have when we look at our ecology.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Adam Cherson

    I rate this book a 4.25 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being best. This is one of the best environmental histories I’ve ever come across. It is simply a mind blowing description of what has happened to the fauna of Australia and environs from the beginning until today. Chock full of interesting hypotheses and speculations: Dr Jonathon Kingdon...has recently developed a hypothesis about the nature of the ancestors of Australians that seems to fit the few well known facts well. He suggests that when m I rate this book a 4.25 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being best. This is one of the best environmental histories I’ve ever come across. It is simply a mind blowing description of what has happened to the fauna of Australia and environs from the beginning until today. Chock full of interesting hypotheses and speculations: Dr Jonathon Kingdon...has recently developed a hypothesis about the nature of the ancestors of Australians that seems to fit the few well known facts well. He suggests that when modern humans finally reached South-East Asia some 100,000 years ago, they rapidly evolved to suit the unique environment in which they found themselves. He notes that South-East Asia is particularly rich in near shore marine environments which offer extraordinarily rich pickings for large omnivorous primates such as humans......If people were to exploit such resources, they would have had to develop a number of physical and cultural adaptations to help them deal with their new environment....If people were to gather food on the littoral, they would have had to spend long hours exposed to the glare of the midday sun while foraging on beaches, mudflats, and reefs. The risk of sun stroke and skin cancer would have made this extremely dangerous. Their defence consisted of the development of very black skin. Kingdon points out that the primitive skin color for humans is an all-purpose brown, and that very black skin is as extraordinary a deviation from this as white skin...Kingdon calls these first truly black people the Banda, after the islands of the Inner and Outer Arcs north of Australia which, he postulates, were their ancestral home...The move east into Australia/New Guinea would have been the shortest, and perhaps the first major migration they undertook. But they also appear to have migrated far to the west, along the littoral of the Indian Ocean out to the Andaman Islands...and back into the African homeland of all humanity. There, they displaced the original honey-colored Africans from many habitats in coastal and equatorial Africa. 153-155 Perhaps the most immediate problem with attributing the extinctions of large mammals to changes associated with the last ice age is that it is only the most recent of 17 ice ages that have gripped the Earth over the past two million years. Some...have been more severe....Sixteen of the world’s 17 ice ages passed without causing dramatic extinctions. 184 On Dr Gifford Miller: Miller’s findings are quite extraoprdinary for, combined with the ideas developed here, they suggest that the extinction of the mega-herbivores may have altered the climate of an entire continent. Such enormous climatic change has never before been postulated to have resulted from an extinction event. 235 Until around 60,000 years ago, Australia’s ecosystems were fully self-sustaining. Then, vast extinctions devastated the entire continent. Following this, for about 60,000 years Aborigines managed the crippled ecosystems, preventing them from degenerating further. Now, Europeans have arrived and forced the discontinuance of that management. These changes beg the question of what we should aim for in our management of reserved lands. Should we aim to keep them as they are today, as they were 200 years ago, or as they were 60,000 years ago, when they functioned without interference of humans? 380

  25. 4 out of 5

    Janice

    I have just begun to read this book which I've had on my to read shelf for several years. I've always held this one up there as a kind of dessert or reward for reading because I just knew it would be good and so far I am not disappointed. Two Weeks Later: I've just finished reading 'The Future Eaters'. What an amazing book. I had to put it aside a few times to absorb this complex and comprehensive history (several hundred thousand years of it) of Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, New Caledonia, I have just begun to read this book which I've had on my to read shelf for several years. I've always held this one up there as a kind of dessert or reward for reading because I just knew it would be good and so far I am not disappointed. Two Weeks Later: I've just finished reading 'The Future Eaters'. What an amazing book. I had to put it aside a few times to absorb this complex and comprehensive history (several hundred thousand years of it) of Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, New Caledonia, Tasmania as well as some of the smaller islands making up Australasia. I was fascinated by the radical changes to the flora and fauna that occurred after the first people arrived over 60,000 years ago and the adjustments made in the thousands of years that followed. Australia's people and its flora and fauna had reached a stable coexistence before the new wave of people from Europe arrived just over 200 years ago! More change occurred in this short period than had occurred in probably over 40,000 years. It gives me pause to think about how quickly life on earth can change if not properly managed by its human population. Excellent book if you're looking for something truly thought provoking.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Zana

    Wow, this is an incredible book. It's very much in the vein of Jared Diamond, but Australia-specific. I can't recommend it highly enough. My dad assigned it to his class seven years ago when he took them (and me) on a tour of Aboriginal Australia. I read the other two books but didn't get to the this one. I'm glad I suggested reading it for book club, which forced me to sit down and finally read it. 60,000 years ago man arrived in Australia and wiped out the megafauna. Then they had to deal with t Wow, this is an incredible book. It's very much in the vein of Jared Diamond, but Australia-specific. I can't recommend it highly enough. My dad assigned it to his class seven years ago when he took them (and me) on a tour of Aboriginal Australia. I read the other two books but didn't get to the this one. I'm glad I suggested reading it for book club, which forced me to sit down and finally read it. 60,000 years ago man arrived in Australia and wiped out the megafauna. Then they had to deal with the fact that they'd wiped out their food source, in a spectacularly resource-poor land. In the millenia since, the land shaped their society so that ecological balance became dependent upon Aboriginal firestick farming -- which ceased when the Europeans came. Uh, trigger warning for genocide? The book has two weaknesses: 1) There are very few Aboriginal voices or opinions in it; 2) it was published in 1994, and science has progressed a lot since then. I want an updated version, with the controversies that have been settled by discoveries in the archaeological record, and with the new controversies that have emerged since!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Nonfiction. Flannery is clearly a kindred spirit of Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs and Steel). While Diamond tends to go global, Flannery, a paleontologist, recounts Australia's unique evolution, the many varieties of marsupials, and the aborigines, whom he identifies as the first future eaters. Their culture, with its origins some 40,000 years ago, first destroyed much of their future sustenance--the flora and fauna they found--then managed to create a new balance in the drastically changed landsca Nonfiction. Flannery is clearly a kindred spirit of Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs and Steel). While Diamond tends to go global, Flannery, a paleontologist, recounts Australia's unique evolution, the many varieties of marsupials, and the aborigines, whom he identifies as the first future eaters. Their culture, with its origins some 40,000 years ago, first destroyed much of their future sustenance--the flora and fauna they found--then managed to create a new balance in the drastically changed landscape they had created. Of urgent concern to Flannery are the actions of the European migrants to Australia, whose means of consuming the future is of a vastly greater scale than any previous settlers, and who have done so much to strip the aboriginal culture of the ecological wisdom needed to prevent environmental disaster. This book was published in 1994. I wish there were an updated edition. Flannery is an excellent and engaging science writer.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    Though Flannery's general thesis is pretty apparent by the end of the first chapter, this book is worth reading for its intriguing line of argumentation and the wealth of research that was obviously put into it. At times, it becomes arduous to wade through the volume of information provided, but it is worth the effort. At the end of the day, Tim Flannery has managed to convince me that humanity is generally pretty stupid and Australia is kind of a dump. Now if that isn't insightful, I don't know Though Flannery's general thesis is pretty apparent by the end of the first chapter, this book is worth reading for its intriguing line of argumentation and the wealth of research that was obviously put into it. At times, it becomes arduous to wade through the volume of information provided, but it is worth the effort. At the end of the day, Tim Flannery has managed to convince me that humanity is generally pretty stupid and Australia is kind of a dump. Now if that isn't insightful, I don't know what is. In closing, read this book. Learn something. People are already starting to call you stupid behind your back.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Brent Maxwell

    An important book and an enjoyable read, although thoroughly depressing. The Future Eaters walls through the history of Australasia sharing with how the continents shifted info their current arrangement, and ending with a thorough investigation into how modern Australian culture has been shaped. Laden with scientific references, the book dives deep, and although this can be a touch tedious at times, it's clearly enough written and well structured so that is easy to skim as necessary. To any sociol An important book and an enjoyable read, although thoroughly depressing. The Future Eaters walls through the history of Australasia sharing with how the continents shifted info their current arrangement, and ending with a thorough investigation into how modern Australian culture has been shaped. Laden with scientific references, the book dives deep, and although this can be a touch tedious at times, it's clearly enough written and well structured so that is easy to skim as necessary. To any sociologically inclined Australians, I'd recommend the book. It's changed my perspective on many things and has provided much to think about!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Peter Macinnis

    I worked with Tim at the Australian Museum, and when I read this, I kept slapping myself on the forehead, saying "I knew that". It was only later that I realised we had been sitting on the same exhibition design committee, and I had been quietly absorbing his ideas. If he had not written this, I might have done, which would have been scurvy on two counts -- first, he would have been ripped off, and second, the public would have been ripped off, because Tim is a better writer.

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